Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead book cover

Looking for some winning books to add to your family reading list? We rounded up some of our favorite basketball picture books to keep the little athletes in your home entertained and inspired. 

If your child dreams of dribbling and dunking, they’ll love meeting these characters who share their passion for the sport. From biographies of the greats and stories of historic basketball moments to tales of practice and perseverance, these reads will be a storytime slam dunk.   

Jump! From the Life of Michael Jordan

by Floyd Cooper

Acclaimed author Floyd Cooper zooms in on a slice of Michael Jordan’s life to remind young readers that “with perseverance and determination, a greatness may be within reach of us all.” In this beautifully illustrated story, you’ll meet a young Michael, most energetic of all his siblings and relentless in his effort to become a star basketball player. But like many great athletes, his formative years included failure alongside success, offering an important lesson about resilience and perseverance. 

To learn more about the childhood of the legendary Michael Jordan, don’t miss Salt in His Shoes, written by Michael’s mother and sister.


I Got Next

by Daria Peoples-Riley

It’s game day. And our narrator has come down with a case of nerves. He’s got his #1 jersey on, but he left his game face at home. Thanks to a pep talk from his shadow, though, he’s able to get himself under control—and ready to dominate the court. This delightful, rhythmic, Kirkus-starred read will pump up the little ones in your home, as well as giving them a model for how to face doubts and fears. 


Allie’s Basketball Dream

by Barbara E. Barber, illustrated by Darryl Ligasan

When Allie’s dad gifts her a basketball, she’s thrilled and immediately heads to the local court to shoot hoops. But the boys laugh at her failed attempts, her friends reject her invitations to practice, and she winds up sitting dejected on the bench. Then she remembers her dream to become the world’s best basketball player and gets back up to keep trying. This story of perseverance will inspire children to keep practicing and remind them to go after what they want, regardless of what others say or think.


H.O.R.S.E.: A Game of Basketball and Imagination

by Christopher Myers

This isn’t just any old game of HORSE: The stakes are high, the smack talk stinging, and the tricks increasingly elaborate. What starts as a casual pick-up game between two kids turns into an all-out race to become the ultimate champion. This fun, playful read by award-winning author Christopher Myers will inspire creativity and imagination on and off the court.


The Legend of Gravity: A Tall Basketball Tale

by Charly Palmer

Award-winning illustrator and author Charly Palmer celebrates teamwork and friendship in this beautiful picture book. Gravity is the new star player of the Hillside Projects basketball team—and their hope for winning the local pick-up ball tournament. But, facing stiff competition, the group realizes they’ll only be able to win if they play together as a team.


Swish! The Slam-Dunking, Alley-Ooping, High-Flying Harlem Globetrotters

by Suzanne Slade, illustrated by Don Tate

In Swish!, the famed Harlem Globetrotters leap off the page as they dribble and dunk their way into the history books. Young readers will learn about their humble beginnings as a local high-school basketball team and how they became a global phenomenon, showcasing their talent around the world. This powerful story also highlights the racism the team faced and the role the Globetrotters played in ending segregated basketball teams. 


Bravo, Tavo!

by Brian Meunier, illustrated by Perky Edgerton

Tavo dreams of playing basketball like his favorite NBA players he sees on TV, but with worn shoes and no money to replace them, it feels like just too long a shot. He complains about working long days with his father in the fields outside their village—until he learns an important lesson about hard work and kindness that changes his perspective and gives him a miraculous boost on the court.


The Basket Ball

by Esmé Raji Codell, illustrated by Jennifer Plecas

When the boys won’t let Lulu join their basketball games, she decides to create her own Basket Ball where glitter and sports can coexist. Girls from around the world show up to show off their trick shots and high-top heels. This fun picture book reminds readers that you don’t have to choose between sneakers and sequins; everyone is welcome on the court.


Basketball Belles: How Two Teams and One Scrappy Player Put Women’s Hoops on the Map

by Sue Macy, illustrated by Matt Collins

In one of her many picture books about pioneering women in sports, Sue Macy takes readers to Stanford University in 1896, the site of the first basketball game between two women’s college teams. Macy’s play-by-play recounting of this historic game will keep readers on the edge of their seats as they root for the story’s heroine, Agnes Morley.


Brendan and Belinda and the Slam Dunk!

by Anne Rockwell, illustrated by Paul Meisel

Mr. Porker is thrilled when his twins show natural talent on the basketball court. He quickly signs them up for more and more junior-league teams, but neglects to ask the kids how they feel about playing that much basketball. A playful take on overzealous parents who project their own passions and hobbies on their kids, this picture book is a fun, easy read that could spark conversations with your own children about needs, wants, and finding balance.


Hoop Genius: How a Desperate Teacher and a Rowdy Gym Class Invented Basketball

by John Coy, illustrated by Joe Morse

Travel back in time to 1891 to meet James Naismith, a young teacher tasked with controlling a very rowdy group of students. Football was too chaotic, and lacrosse didn’t help either, so he decided to create a brand-new game to channel the students’ energy. Young basketball fans and parents alike will enjoy learning about the origins of this beloved sport and how it’s evolved over the years. 


Does your child love sports and sports reads? Don’t miss our other curated lists of picture books about sports!